John Taylor High School is a secondary school with over 1,600 students in the East Staffordshire village of Barton-under-Needwood, near Burton-on-Trent. As part of the centre of the John Taylor Multi-Academy Trust and as a National Teaching and Research School, the school is at the forefront of innovation and is passionate about effectively integrating technology into teaching.
We spoke to Simon Curzon, Director of Numeracy, Louise Burns, Curriculum Area Leader of English and Peter Packer, mathematics teacher, to learn more about their digital strategy, why they chose CENTURY and their experiences with the platform to date.
What role does technology play in your school?
Going back about 18 months, we were looking for a package that had comprehensive Key Stage coverage and would work for Key Stage 3 all the way up to Key Stage 4. We also wanted something that could support our learners in sixth form who still needed to do some catch up work in terms of passing their GCSE maths and English, as we usually don’t get a lot of time to work with those students.
We wanted something that could cover everything. We didn't want to have a package that had gaps in it and certain topic areas that still needed to be plugged in.
The staff in our school also have very varied levels of confidence with using technology, so it was important for us to provide staff with enough training to make them feel comfortable and confident using whatever technology we decided to introduce.
How have you used technology throughout lockdown?
We aim to use technology that can be a mixture between direct instruction and independent study. For example, we’ve been using CENTURY for blended homework, so we try to alternate between setting work on online platforms and traditional book work and writing down answers with pen and paper.
We have access to a computer room, so when we had some students in school and some students at home in the Autumn term, it was also an absolute game changer for the pupils at home to be able to do exactly the same activities as those students in school using CENTURY.
With schools reopening, how is CENTURY going to continue to help your students?
Moving forward, it will be a great tool for reducing staff workload, which is something on everyone's mind. The diagnostics advise students on the content for them to cover based on how they perform, so that both reduces the workload for staff and provides us with data that will help us to plan effectively. We had wanted something that was measurable, and both in a leadership role and also as a class teacher, the data that CENTURY gives you ownership of is phenomenal.
We had wanted something that was measurable, and both in a leadership role and also as a class teacher, the data that CENTURY gives you ownership of is phenomenal.
We initially focused on Key Stage 4 as a simple way to embed CENTURY into the department, but what we’re really interested in for the future is using the courses that are focused on functional topics and spelling, punctuation and grammar.
CENTURY will be especially useful for helping students to catch up on lost learning, because it provides us with data that helps us identify where students’ weaknesses are as a whole cohort and then allows us to set work to help them as individuals with the areas that they need to improve on. We already know that a weakness in our Year 7 is non-fiction, for example, so our subject mentor can either assign specific nuggets from CENTURY’s Key Stage 3 Reading course or even set pupils the whole course and let the AI do the work.
How did you implement CENTURY?
When we were getting started, the training that was offered was also really fantastic, and the students and the staff were able to just pick it up and run with the platform.
In terms of the coverage, it is completely comprehensive and supports all Key Stages, but our initial focus was on supporting Key Stage 4 pupils.
For Year 11s, we decided to use it primarily to help students revisit topics, which has been a great way to free up time from in-person lessons. This enables teachers to spend time focussing on teaching more complex skills like extended writing and analytical essay writing.
For example, in English, our Year 11 students covered Romeo and Juliet and a language paper in lockdown last year, so we decided to assign them that content on CENTURY. This gave them that extra layer of support with topics that would otherwise have still felt alien to them, because they haven't covered it in person as much as another cohort of Key Stage Four would have done.
We also implemented it into Year 10 by looking at the courses and the content that we can set alongside each topic as they start their GCSEs, so they’re also getting that multi-layered approach.
Even at Key Stage 5, we have a few students who need to repeat their GCSE. On CENTURY, the ability to create your own groups so that we could provide extra courses and content to support those students who are repeating it has been great. As anyone who supports students repeating their GCSE will tell you, the fact that they are doing other subjects alongside their resits means that you have a lot of content to cover within a very small amount of time. CENTURY is really useful in that sense.